Saturday, December 27, 2008


Artwork created by Merissa Garrison


I was nearly asleep when the earth cast its
shadow on the winter white moon.

I could feel the past move over my shoulder
in a chill wind brought forth from the mirror.

“Enjoy Yourself!” the past rang out from a little
ancient bell that sits in a land of wings and lost poetry.

“Enjoy Yourself!” the past pleaded with me, as I slept
with the poets of antiquity biting at my heels and heart.

Once, my mother asked me to find her some moon roses
when she wasn’t feeling beautiful anymore.

“Enjoy Yourself!” That same bell had rung out to my mother
as she had graciously smiled a “company smile” at all of them.

“Enjoy Yourself!” It had pleaded with her, as she sat and watched
all the other women ask my father to dance with them.

And now that the moon has moved in beside me, and the poets
have given up the fight, I am at peace with all of this.

Anyway, I cannot think of it anymore…my mother’s New Year
spent in longing - for all those shining days along the river.

Sunday, December 21, 2008



There is fairy music in the night
And a brush of wings in silvery light.

A big old moon with a wintry glow
Making glittery sparkles on the snow.

The big reindeer now fairly prances
He’s ready to fly while a vision dances.

So with a fanfare of horn, drum, and banjo
Santa lifts the reigns and laughs – Let’s go!

Into the dark and wild sky they race
Magically tricking time and space.

Around the world in just one night
Oh, wish I may and wish I might

See that old elf on his way
Across the heavens in his sleigh!

~ Christmas Blessings to All ~

Thursday, December 18, 2008



Trudging in snow as heavy as sand,
I pressed on toward those memories
Of lost winter games,
And breath forming crystals
On window panes
Like magic barnacles.

The bitter cold, then, made my legs
Burn and itch by the fire.
I raked the frozen cells
With my fingernails
Until trails of blood appeared.

My hair was damp and icy
Under the heavy wool
That imprinted vertical
Lines on my mind.

I had been the fox in the field,
Running in the heavy snow
To catch a rabbit slow.
Cunning in my slyness –
Running in my shyness –
I caught the sluggish ones,
Who lived nearby.

But, that was years ago.
Now the snow that I struggle through
Is just snow – a nuisance – a drudgery.
I watch as a single snowflake,
As huge as the moon, falls silently
On my infant’s warm cheek
And melts instantly away.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Relief Sculpture by Merissa Garrison


I haul things.
I drag them behind me
from place to place,
from year to year.
They are becoming
a mountain of
casting a shadow
on all four sides of me.

the shadow on the first side

For years, I hid behind
burgundy flowers of dusty damask,
enclosed in a chamber of glass,
looking at the world
through my own fingerprints.
When the real sun had given up,
the artificial one would take its place
above the elm trees, stippled with disease.

the shadow on the second side

When I held myself up
in the afternoon light,
I saw my reflection on
the silver side of leaves.
The sun set my hair on fire,
which slowly baked my brain
and made me sleepy.
I drifted off to fairyland,
where everything sparkled
and where I felt inviolate.

the shadow on the third side.

We stayed for years under
a catalpa tree. I stretched
out beside you in spring,
summer, winter and fall.
Once, when I was heavy
with child, you planted
watermelons beneath the tree.
Soon, they were climbing the
rock wall and disturbing my sleep.

the shadow on the fourth side

My birthday came cold
and late in the day. My gifts
were a blue sky from Germany,
fans from the Orient, an owl
from the enchanted woods, and
words – given to me by an old
friend from the Netherlands,
to help me make it through
one more bleak winter.

I haul things.
I drag them behind me
from place to place,
from year to year.
They are becoming
a mountain of
casting a shadow
on all four sides of me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008



with her breath she
an eagle with a
in its talons
in the quiet

above the powder
over the bighorn
into the dreams of her
where elk sheep deer

and the real people
in peace and respect
in love with mother
and with one

Thursday, December 4, 2008


The Star by Edgar Degas


hello dreamer
you were the dancer
on sleek legs
of muscles hewn
on toes of hope
on dusty floors
arms outstretched
in a pose of
twirling magically
and then dying

cool ivory skin
smooth like glass
I touched you then
but did not know you
but I loved your magic

in you I saw
the reality of dreams
the beauty of youth
the ever stretching hope
of things to come
and the world as mine

you were me
and I was you
we didn’t know it then
until arm against arm
we saw the reflection

Sunday, November 30, 2008


"Poplars" by Monet


across the pond stood
a paragraph of trees
punctuated by commas
of birds resting there
just long enough
to make me pause

Monday, November 24, 2008



A leaf all full of sassafras,
Floated without a sound onto the grass,
Then, quickly wafted onto a stone,
To sit there and think all alone.

I am big and yellow, the leaf thought,
But, it was something else that she sought,
To be something useful was her desire,
A thing that would encourage or inspire.

But, alas, no revelations came to her,
No ideas or imaginings began to stir,
So sadly, she let go of her dream,
She didn’t plan and she didn’t scheme.

Look, Mom, called a little voice,
This leaf is lucky – it has a choice,
It can be a mitten to warm a hand,
Or a big fat turkey living off the land.

The leaf felt the touch of a boy’s love,
As he picked up the yellow mitten glove,
Then turned the leaf on its other side,
And gobbled for the turkey there fat and wide.

The boy showed the leaf to his dad,
Who tried on the mitten, then gobbled like mad,
The child and his parents laughed with glee,
At the big yellow leaf from the sassafras tree.

The boy pressed the leaf all by himself,
And placed it carefully on a shelf,
And there he kept it all winter long,
Now that’s the end of this autumn song.

But, if you please, just one more word,
In case you find this poem absurd,
Oh, remember those days of childhood play,
When imagination ruled the day!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Painting by Vincent Van Gogh


When I saw you in Paris in the spring of ‘87
your eyes were yellow-green and steady.

Your head was made up of short, broken strokes
of carrot color hair, styled like my father’s.

You were surprisingly neat. I noticed that
your blue cravat matched the buttons

on your jacket. Even in detached Paris,
you were emotionally motivated.

Your compassion for toil-worn souls
was still apparent. Even though your

palette was light and airy then,
I knew that your heart still belonged

to those who ate potatoes
in the semi-darkness.

Sunday, November 16, 2008



What can I say to you
that has not already
been revealed in these tiles,
scattered in magnetic profusion
on the face of my cold, flat life?

Honestly, if I could write to you
without words - I’d do it.

What words can give you back that morning,
when you ran to the top of the mountain
to see a red tail hawk resting in a chestnut tree.
Yes, I saw you running, your hair
a silky river streaming behind you.

If I had words to send you, I would want
you to swallow them like a tonic,
because I know, they would be potent.

But my words lay hidden, like onionskin eggs
placed in cold clumps of new, spring grass –
wizened eggs, petrified now,
in their waiting to be found and counted.

Back when our days belonged only to us,
my lips gave the trees permission to whisper
our names to the larks winging overhead.

And now,
now a silence of words gathers at the rim of
my life and prevents me from saying all those
things that I should have said years and years ago.

written, spoken,
lost, broken.

Sunday, November 9, 2008



The first fire of day
catches in the corner
of a gray November sky,
as winter trees bristle
on the spine of the mountain,
like hair on the back of
an angry dog.

I turn my face
to the ancient wind
and listen.
I hear the young ones singing.
I hear the old ones wailing.
I hear their voices telling me

Monday, November 3, 2008


Art work by Picasso


Like smoke from the
leaves of autumn burning,
my thoughts stratify over
the fields in thick
layers of contemplation.

Only the sound of my voice,
calling out my own name,
cuts through the miasma
and swirls crazily upward,

where it splinters into a
thousand words that shard
down into the ears of the deaf,
echoing like an insidious litany.

Go home now.
It’s too late.
I can’t help you.

Friday, October 31, 2008




On a rainy day, filled with remorse, Melinda McMillan was laid to rest in a watery grave, the irony escaping no one. Tansy and rosemary leaves were spread all around to ward off danger from the corpse. The Irish Bagpipes played, “The Flowers of the Forest” and Maura Gillian sang a woeful rendition of “Down by the Salley Gardens.” Jack McMillan wept openly.

The railing that Melinda broke through was repaired with good solid timber the day after her burial. However, a shockwave of disbelief ran rampant through the valley, when within twelve hours of the renovation; the boards were broken up and busted through, as if they had not been repaired at all.

The repairs were made again, and for a second time the boards were broken through. When a third restoration was attempted, several men volunteered to stay at the bridge site for twenty-four hours to see if trickery and deception were involved.

The men rarely spoke of their experience, only to say that the bridge itself groaned loudly before the boards broke and exploded into the water below.

James Lilly, a young married man, was one of the volunteers who stayed at the bridge that night. His daughter, Annie, wrote an entry in her diary. “Da comed home from stayin’ on the bridge. Nobody knowed ‘im cause his hair turned pure white.”

People were terrified of the possibility that the bridge was possessed by Melinda’s restless spirit. They stopped using the bridge, opting instead to cross over dangerous wetlands a few miles further downstream.

“Jack, I wisht ye would eat somethin’,” his mother begged. “Yer gitten’ thin,” even though he still weighed 190 pounds and was as strong as a young bull.

“I’m alright, Ma, I don’t want any food right now. I’m goin' to the bridge. I want to try to repair it. Maybe the folks will start to use it again. Why should they be without a bridge?” He said, as he stood to leave. His mother’s worried look followed him.

Jackson rode his gelding through the early evening mist, as crows as dark as ink called overhead. He didn’t hear them, as his thoughts were only of Melinda and her porcelain skin and her mouth as soft and sweet as sugared cream. He tied his horse on a tree branch and walked onto the bridge. There was an absence of sound.

“My sweet darling’ where are ye now?” he whispered, as he gazed down into the creek. “I miss ye and I will forever.” He laid his head on his folded arms that rested on the bridge railing, directly across the span from the un-mended opening.

“Jack, I am here.” Had he heard Melinda’s whispered voice or was he mad.
Jack raised his head slowly and listened. He looked down into the creek and saw the faintest apparition of her, smiling up at him. She was in her wedding gown, holding the bouquet of oxeye daisies, standing on a flat rock in the middle of the creek.

“Melinda, my love. Is that you girl, or a phantom most fine?”
She beckoned to him with up stretched arms.
“Melinda, I cannot come to ye. You are in a place that I cannot go. Not now.”
Jack watched in terror as she rose into the air, stopping in front of him.
“But you have to come Jack. That was the wish I made the day we were last here.”
“No, Melinda – you didn’t make a wish. You fell before ye….”
“It was my dyin’ wish, Jack. Dyin’ wishes always come true,” she said, sweetly.
“No, Melinda…Melinda,” his breath came ragged now.
“But, Jack…My dying wish was that you and I would be together for eternity.”

Jack backed up, as she floated toward him, closer and closer. He was so frightened that he didn’t realize she was steering him right to the spot where she had fallen through, that un-repairable opening. As he started to fall backwards, she caught his hands in hers and pulled him into her, kissing his lips ever so softly, as together, they fell silently into Clay Creek, their spirits forever joined.

Everyone was saddened by the news that Jack had gone mad and "jumped" to his death. People from far and wide were fascinated by the romantic tale of Jack and Melinda McMillan. It was said that he could no longer draw breath in a world that was absent his raven-haired beauty. Ballads were sung and poems penned about the tragic events of the young married lovers. And… to honor Jack in his passionate, although dreadful act - the bridge, which had been known simply as the bridge over Clay Creek, was officially named “Lover’s Leap Bridge.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008



~ May 30, 1840 ~

Melinda kissed her brother, her two sisters, her father and mother.
“Thank you, Mama, for the pretty weddin’ you gave me. I’ll remember it till the day I die.” Melinda said her farewells and with the help of her new husband, Jackson McMillan, stepped up into the wagon, holding her bouquet of Oxeye Daisies.

Jackson shook hands with Melinda’s father, bowed to her mother and sisters, and mussed the hair of her brother before jumping up onto the wagon’s seat beside his dainty, young bride.

Rice was thrown, tears were shed, and laughter lifted high atop the tulip trees, standing heavy with pink and white blossoms. Melinda tried to shout I love you over the rattle and bump of the tin cans and old shoes tied to the back of the buckboard, but her voice, faint with emotion, failed her.

The wagon had traveled only a few yards toward the settlement of Locust Hill, when Jackson put his arm around Melinda. “Ye’ve made me the happiest of all men today, Melinda. I’ll be a good husband to ye,” he said, as he kissed her forehead.

She leaned into him and squeezed his arm tightly, then reached up and kissed his cheek. “You were my dream, Jack. ‘Twas a wish that I made on a shootin’ star when I was fourteen years old that has come to fruition this day,” she looked adoringly at him.

The next few miles were filled with talk of future things – gardens, a barn, cows, and children. The mid-afternoon sun was warm on their faces, and added to their feeling of true contentment.

“Oh, Jack, let’s stop on the bridge so I kin make a wish!” she said.
“I thought I was yer wish,” he joked.
“I have another one,” Melinda said, demurely.

As she jumped off the wagon seat impetuously, the heel of her shoe caught in the hem of her dress. Dozens of starlings flew from the bridge in fear, as Melinda’s scream split the air. Jack reached out to grab her, but the delicate lace of her dress tore under his heavy hand. Still clutching her bridal bouquet, she plummeted thirty feet into the shallow, rocky waters of Clay Creek.

Jackson scrambled down the bank beside the bridge abutment and jumped into the water. When he reached her limp and broken body, he quickly felt her neck for a pulse. Jackson’s own breathing stopped, his face contorted, eyes shut tight against the looming possibility, as he felt for a sign of life. The contusion on her temple was a dark purple knot. She was bleeding from her mouth and nose. Feeling no pulse at her neck, he pressed his ear to her chest. There was no heartbeat.

The cry that tore from him was a guttural scream, raw and ugly; a primordial rendering that leaves the shell of a human intact, but shatters the spirit beyond repair.

Sunday, October 26, 2008



rise up
in a stubble
of gray warts
across the great
green body of
the memorial lawn
fungus of the
dead and gone
telling us about
who we used to be

Wednesday, October 22, 2008



I started out life flanked by my
mother’s wild flower garden
and the Kanawha river,
that ran cold and choppy
over the shoals that held
fresh water mussel beds,
ancient in their ruin.

I was captured at an early age,
held prisoner, then protected
by the mountains all around me.

At night, I was lulled to sleep
by the rhythmic clankety-clank
of the coal trains,
pulsing up and down the tracks
- like blood in veins -
keeping the people alive.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Painting by Merissa Gilbert Garrison

Someone said it was
time to go. I was loathe
to leave the whispers behind.
We traveled huddled together,
a knot of professional mourners,
with pasty masks covering
our suntanned faces.

“Listen” broke our stride,
and we stopped on our path
in the middle of our thoughts.

Galloping out of nowhere
a troop of tumblers arrived
for our entertainment and distraction.
How could we have torn our cheeks
and gnashed our teeth, when we were
much amused by apparitions of acrobats,
who were able to leap and rise above
the curtain of our false grief?

Like ghosts always do, one by one,
they jumped and somersaulted into
the thin air around us, tumbling and
flying above our heads. We watched
them until they disappeared from sight –
somewhere way up the path over
a stand of buttonwoods.

Again, someone said it was time to go.
In unison, we adjusted our false faces,
shuffled in step, slumped our shoulders,
and hung our heads. We had to get back
to mourning the dead.

Thursday, October 16, 2008



I saw your foot
move into my frame,
while I sat motionless
beside the bed of an invalid.

Cry for me,
your foot said,
cry for me!

I have walked around
the earth three times.
I have cut me in half
on the bone of a whale.
I have balanced on the
backs of sweating men.
I have been severely bound.
I have waded through nuclear ash.

I can’t cry for you,
I said,
at least you are a foot!

Suddenly, your soiled rags
could be seen beneath the curtain.
You picked them up with your toes,
as if your toes were fingers;
and one by one you
buried them beside you.

Monday, October 13, 2008



I am becoming Baudelaire’s sick muse,
mostly because of the nightmare visions
I have of myself – hollow eyes, steel hair,
knotted, twisted, burning – silent.

I once carried a dream, as if it were
a child, close to my breast - dying
now – consumptive, a blood veil
covering the one white iris.

You asked me, once, what sense could be
made of the delicate scent hovering around
our bed, as we floated to the moon
to light our torches and to fan the embers
that we thought were dead.

I had no answer then, but this I know -
this long weeping that you hear now, will roll
from age to age, from one generation of
muses to another, until we can no longer
inspire the poets who need us so desperately.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008



Amid bags of fruit
and coolers filled
with bottled water,
we sat on the bus
waiting for Ted.
We passed the time
in hushed tones
of polite talk and
civil manners, while the hour
to go came and went.
The bus driver shifted
and coughed, as he
ate a donut - wiping
the powdered sugar
off his fingers
onto his clean pants.
An old hippie jumped
off the bus and walked
around studying a map of
an arboretum, as he clicked
his heels and hummed.
The ruddy-faced art
students giggled nervously
in the back of the bus,
eating cold toaster pastries
and reading banned books,
waiting for Ted.
A young woman
fixed her already
perfect make-up
and smiled at herself
in her compact mirror.
Then, just as the
morning sun slanted
through the front
windows of the bus,
Ted showed up with his
big silly face and his fake
radio announcer voice.
Someone flushed the toilet
in the back of the bus,
as Ted bowed and Shakespeared,
“A pleasant morning all.”
I rolled my eyes and sighed
heavily - as I reluctantly
moved my mesh bag of apples -
so that he could sit down beside me.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Painting by
Merissa Gilbert Garrison


The immense white birch tree
in the back woods is dying -
its broken limbs now pasted
to the sorrowful sky,
as woodpeckers tattoo
its papery white skin
with black funerary designs.
Clusters of insects and blotches of mold
congregate and multiply in its folds
of scalloped bark and toothless grin,
as gatherings of birds in silence, grieve -
on rotting branches like feathery leaves.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008



I saw your boots at the door.
For years, I thought they
belonged to your father.
I didn’t know your friend
had given you his own boots
to wear when you were ill.

Whose coat did you wear?
Was it yours, or did it belong
to one of your neighbors?
Seeing only the memory of it,
cut black in a triangle corner,
it was hard for me to tell.

Studying your boots
over the shoulders of your admirers,
I noticed perfect scratches on them,
made by thorny weeds
that did not impede your daily walks,
nor hinder your getting well.

I never spoke the words to my companion,
- With his boots, I’ll start my own journey -
but leaning into her,
I saw the image of what I was thinking
painted on her face
in illuminations of ochre and pearl.

Can I borrow your borrowed boots
to trample down the weeds growing
up all around me?

Can I wear them
to walk myself well again?

Sunday, September 28, 2008


My husband and I just rolled in from Stanhope, New Jersey - where we were immersed in poetry for two glorious days. It was overcast and misty in historic Waterloo Village, which was re-opened exclusively for the nearly 20,000 people who showed up for one, two, three or four days of nonstop poetry at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, which ran from Thursday, September 25 through Sunday, September 28. However, the rain didn't ruin a thing, it only added intimacy to the literary atmosphere shared by the poets and their audiences alike.

I have never experienced such a rich wealth of words in so short a time. There were no less than five U. S. Poet Laureates there (Billy Collins, Robert Hass, Ted Kooser, Maxine Kumin, and Charles Simic). They, along with some of the most well known and influencial poets of our day, shared poems, conversation, and private feelings about their lives and craft. There would be many great poets in one spot, giving readings of their famous works. Heady, exhilarating, thrilling...

We floated from beautiful tent to tent, as they lay nestled in and amongst the trees and landmark historic buildings. The tents had identifying names that they borrowed from their nearest structures. Names like...Apothecary Tent, White Barn Tent, Stagecoach Inn Tent, Library Tent, and so forth. My husband and I sat mesmerized at 9:30 Saturday morning in the Sawmill Tent having a conversation on craft with Sharon Olds. She is so honored a poet, receiving awards far and wide, including the Guggenheim Fellowship. She was the State Poet Laureate of New York from 1998 to 2000, and yet there she was, as down to earth as anyone else. When she first entered the tent, she started talking to the tall speakers, asking them what kind of animal they were - in jest, of course, in lovely, lovely jest. And so it was with all the poets, approachable, amiable, and highly entertaining, not knowing their works are stacked up in the corners of my house like columns.

The Paul Winter Consort performed, too. Their music is mingled with the voices of whales, wolves, eagles, and other animals. They performed in the huge main tent, playing instruments of many kinds to the sheer wonderment of the audience. Saturday evening we were invited to howl with the wolves in the recording. Paul Winter asks us to raise our own howls for the betterment of humans and animals in America and all over the world. It became a resounding 'barbaric yawp"! It was so much fun and so cathartic I wanted to keep howling for my mind, I did.

I cannot possibly write about the entire experience... from "anyone who wanted to" giving voice to Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton, Etheridge Knight, and Sappho in the Gazebo, to the overall feel of the place. Jim Habba, the festival director said he hoped that we would find pleasures of all kinds there, wherever we turned, as we began to relax in the sea of words and images washing over us. My husband and I left Sunday after listening to Ted Kooser read his evocative poetry. Our ears, heads, hearts, and spirits were filled to the brim with metaphors and similes. The words didn't just wash over us - we drank them in like a tonic.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Your Kodak paper eyes stare
up at me from your cigar box coffer.
They invite me to know you.

You lived in a Victorian house on Main Street
filled with books on phrenology.
Your husband was more delicate
than you would have liked a man to be.
On Wednesdays, you met with friends for tea.
You had neither the time nor inclination
to work on jigsaw or crossword puzzles.
Secretly, you wished for a child.
You brought a calico cat back to life,
after it had been struck dead by lightning.
You named him Hot Shot. He became
your confidant and lived on with you
for another fourteen years.
You had a passion for Japanese art.
Your corset was never tightly laced.
You learned to ride a bicycle when
you were twenty-three years old and
like your mother, your middle name was Grace.
And every chance you got, you would dance
in the willowed back yard, being careful not to
step on the blue chicory stars
scattered here and there beneath your feet.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Summer ended on cotton threads
overgrown with vines and passion.

And the roses that made me queen
lay brown with abandonment -

scattered now at the foot of Venus,
standing in shadows both blue and cold.

How soft our tongues were in June -
barely touching our teeth,

as we sang the wind back to
the north, and trilled magical

chants in the pale of morning -
before the silence was broken.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


As still as glass
the first cold of autumn forms.
Then moves, unconcerned as a spirit,
rising up the hollows like smoke
from a chimney rock of long ago.
The smell of it is of all things
natural and radiant, expected.
Its taste is of apples and pumpkins,
and secret honey found caught
in the elbows of ancient trees.
Soft, I catch the essence against
my breast and imagine that I am
allowed to disturb the air with my
breathing. I float, an apparition,
above the dark beaver pond,
where submerged in mire, the silver
scales of fish fall silent and soft
as tongues of prayer.
Nothing rests under the gold gleam
of the Harvest moon.
Nothing sleeps – except for all of us
who linger in the cold mist of autumn.
We sleep so that, narcissistic and exposed,
we can dream about ourselves.